OPSEU demands reversal of decision affecting rural hospitals

Medical lab testing project cut at 10 institutions


Toronto (9 Oct. 2008) - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is demanding that the provincial health ministry restore a popular project to conduct community medical testing in 10 rural hospital labs.

The union also wants the province to find out who made the controversial decision to axe it.

“All we have had is denials,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The project didn’t terminate itself. This is such an obviously bad decision that everyone is running from taking responsibility for.”

The mystery deepened last week when Health Minister David Caplan denied in the legislature that the government was cutting funding for the projects. His remarks contradicted Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare CEO Barry Lockhart, who said at two public forums he had to end the practice after the government withdrew $900,000 in funding.

Caplan also said the decision was made through the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), something the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN denied in a letter to the OPSEU.

"The decision to move to the provincial model for providing community lab services, following the termination of the pilot project, was made by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare,” Ruben Rosen, chair of the agency, said in a Sept. 8 letter.

Muskoka Algonquin argued last spring in favour of maintaining local community testing at the institution, claiming it had many advantages to patients, physicians and the hospital.

These advantages were confirmed in a report by RPO Consultants, released in May. RPO said the average cost of a patient’s tests were $33 at the private labs compared to $22 when done locally by community hospital labs. NUPGE